My 2010 Fantasy Baseball Team
I thought I would share my fantasy baseball team with readers once again. As I noted last year, "our league is one of the longest, continuous fantasy pools in the country. The Lakewood Players League, as it is known, has been in existence, in one form or fashion, for over 30 years."
The LPL is a 16-team, non-keeper league. We draft new teams each year. We do not allow trades or waiver wire pickups. Instead, we allow owners to select 28 players and offer three replacement drafts at each of the quarter poles in the season.
It's a family affair with my brother serving as commissioner and an original team owner, my son and nephew co-owning a franchise, and a cousin and another cousin's husband also sharing a team. A few of the other 12 owners are friends dating back to junior and senior high school in the dark ages of the 1960s and 1970s.
While our fantasy pool is guilty of including a few team-dependent stats, we have made a few rule changes over the years to minimize stolen bases and saves. Unlike most fantasy/rotisserie pools, stolen bases are not one of four or five offensive categories. Instead, we take net stolen bases (defined as SB - 2*CS), multiply that by .5 and add it to walks plus hit by pitches. In other words, we treat (net) stolen bases as "extra" bases, if you will. As a result, you won't find Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford being drafted in the first round of our pool. We have also reduced the value of closers by making saves worth half as much as the other pitching categories (IP, ERA, WHIP, and K minus BB).
I had the good fortune of winning our fantasy pool last year for the seventh time since 1989. I have finished third or better in all but one year since 2001. I am hopeful that I can repeat like I did in 1989 and 1990 or put together a three-peat a la 1995-1997. But the competition is tough with the team to beat owning three of my players from last year (Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, and Tommy Hanson) plus Adam Lind and Brian McCann at the turn in the fourth and fifth rounds.
Here are my draft picks:
1. Ryan Braun: Drafting in the fifth spot, I was pleased to get Braun as I had him ranked as my No. 1 outfielder and No. 3 overall hitter. In less than three full seasons, the 26-year-old slugger has averaged 40 doubles, 7 triples, and 39 home runs (along with 113 runs and 121 RBI) per 162 games. Knock off 10% for minor injuries and rest and it seems reasonable to expect Braun to hit over .300 with at least 35 doubles and 35 home runs and a minimum of 100 runs and 110 RBI. Those stats will work just fine for me.
2. Justin Upton: My decision came down to Upton or Matt Holliday. I went with Upton based on his age and upside. I have him hitting .300 with 30 HR and 90-100 runs and RBI this year. Whether those projected numbers turn out to be better than what Holliday puts up remains to be seen.
3. Ricky Nolasco: I love Nolasco. I had him last year, too. His 5.06 ERA last year masked a 3.35 FIP and his 4.43 K/BB ratio was the fifth-best in baseball. An ace in the making, he commands his 91-92 mph fastball and uses his tight slider and 12-to-6 curve as swing and miss pitches. Is as good a bet as anyone not named Tim Lincecum or Roy Halladay to win the NL Cy Young Award.
4. Joey Votto: He was my seventh-ranked first baseman. The Big 5 were all gone after the first 18 selections and Adrian Gonzalez was taken with the 29th pick. In addition, Mark Reynolds (eligible at 3B and 1B), Kevin Youkilis (also 3B/1B), Justin Morneau, Kendry Morales, Adam Dunn (OF/1B), and Pablo Sandoval (3B/1B) were off the board as well, making Votto an easy choice for me with the 60th overall pick.
5. Gordon Beckham: I liked Beckham here because, as a 2B/3B, he gave me the flexibility to go in either direction later in the draft. Pro rating his rookie stats over 150 games yields 41 2B, 20 HR, 84 R, 92 RBI, and 60 BB. I can live with those numbers at either position.
6. Manny Ramirez: Going into the draft, I had no designs on taking Manny. However, I was amazed that he was still available this late in the draft. Ramirez was the No. 12 pick in 2009 and No. 92 in 2010. That's called value. I mean, is Manny not going to hit .290 with at least 25 HR and 90 RBI, even if he only plays 130-140 games?
7. Jose Reyes: This pick was similar to my previous one in that Reyes was our pool's fourth overall pick last year and 101st this year. Sure, he missed over 100 games in 2009 with a hamstring injury and sat out most of the spring but the latter was due to a a hyperactive thyroid, which seems rather minor to this non-medical expert. Now in his eighth season, Reyes doesn't turn 27 until June.
8. Ryan Dempster: After putting together the nucleus of one of the best offenses in our league, I needed to add a couple starters with my eighth- and ninth-round picks. Dempster was not only the best pitcher on the board but also the most reliable in my judgment. He was 6-4 with a 3.15 ERA and a 4:1 K/BB ratio in 14 GS after returning from the disabled list with a broken toe in late July.
9. Jonathan Sanchez: Everyone knows that Sanchez threw a no-hitter last year, but did you realize that he was 6-4 with a 3.46 ERA and a MLB-best 10.5 K/9 the rest of the way? Like most young pitchers, he needs to become more efficient with his pitch count in order to work deeper into games. The stuff is there. Here's hoping for 180 innings with an improved walk rate.
10. Chipper Jones: Less than a week into the season and I'm already second guessing myself for this pick. But, injury risk or no, has his star fallen so far that he goes from a third rounder to a tenth rounder from one year to the next? Remember, walks are a full category in our league. Chipper had 101 free passes last year and walked more often than he struck out (89). The projection systems have him hitting at least .285 with 20 HR and producing 70-plus R and RBI. No way I can get those numbers at a non-1B or OF position this late in the draft.
11. Colby Rasmus: Now this is a guy I wanted to get. I'm quite sure I had him ranked higher than any of my competitors. A former No. 1 draft pick, top five overall prospect by Baseball America in 2008 and 2009, coming off a fantastic spring (.362/.500/.707 with 5 HR and 16 BB/18 SO), and batting fifth behind Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday gave me confidence to step up on this 23-year-old center fielder. If I'm wrong on Rasmus, it will be due to the fact that he fails to solve LHP (.160/.219/.255 in 115 career plate appearances).
12. Stephen Strasburg: I believe Strasburg is more valuable in fantasy drafts than generally perceived. You park the kid for two months, activate him when he is called up to the majors, and bank his stats for the final four months when he figures to be a top-20 pitcher in any league that counts strikeouts. I'm prepared for the fact that the Nationals will certainly limit his starts, pitch counts, and innings, which means he could be shut down by early- to mid-September. That's fine. I can plug in one of my other starting pitchers in April, May, and late September. But I'll take the best pitching prospect in decades during June, July, August, and early September.
13. Carl Pavano: Not a popular choice among many fellow participants, I took Pavano because his control is valuable in our league as we double count walks via WHIP and SO minus BB. He is an injury risk for sure, but one that I can manage around if necessary.
14. Matt Thornton: While others were paying up for closers, I sat back and drafted the reliever with the fifth-highest SO-BB total last year. The lefty whiffed 29.3% and walked 7.0% of the batters faced. He is basically a "here it is" type, pumping 95-96 mph fastballs 90 percent of the time. The combination of his velocity and location make him virtually unhittable. A good get in my mind.
15. Mat Latos: Great arm plus big ballpark means the potential is there for the youngster to shut down opponents at home this year. Only 22, Latos will be handled carefully by Bud Black and the Padres. He pitched a combined total of 123 innings in the minors and majors in 2009 and will likely be limited to about 150 IP in 2010. I plan on using Latos selectively.
16. Fausto Carmona: Who knows what I'm getting with this pick? Is Carmona the pitcher who placed fourth in the AL Cy Young Award balloting in 2007 or the wild man who posted a 13-19 record with a 5.89 ERA while allowing more walks than strikeouts in 2008 and 2009? His first start last week (6 IP, 1 H, 3 R, 6 BB, 1 SO) suggests he may be a bit of both. If the 26-year-old righthander can throw bowling balls for strikes like he did three years ago, then this pick just may be the steal of the draft.
17. Chris Perez: I was hopeful that Perez would seize the opportunity to serve as Cleveland's closer in Kerry Wood's absence and keep the job all year long. Well, the early returns are mixed. I loved his first two games and loathed his third.
18. Gio Gonzalez: This pick is all about upside. I moved Gonzalez up on my draft board when he was named the A's 5th SP as I was keenly aware of his stuff and witnessed him striking out 10 Angels without allowing a walk in his final start in 2009. Gio drew the Halos in his first assignment on Friday and was 92-93 with one of the biggest yakkers this side of Erik Bedard. He could be Jonathan Sanchez nine rounds cheaper.
19. John Baker: By far, my worst position player. I was going to take Matt Wieters but my son nabbed him in the sixth round four picks in front of me. I clearly preferred Manny, Reyes, Dempster, et al to the remaining catchers so I resigned myself to taking somebody like Baker. I'm not happy about it but am hopeful that he can reproduce his 2009 season and give me a .270 AVG with 25 2B, 10 HR, and 50-60 R and RBI.
20. David Freese: His time may have finally arrived this season. Freese hit well in the minors (.308/.384/.532) and held his own this spring (.293/.372/.453) with surprisingly decent BB (10) and SO (15) totals. The projection systems have him hitting .265-.280 with 12-15 HR. Not bad for a backup third baseman.
21. Matt LaPorta: Although LaPorta has started five out of six games at first base, he may end up in left field once Russell Branyan (herniated disc) returns from the DL. However, it's a crowded situation with three lefthanded hitters (Branyan, Michael Brantley, and Travis Hafner) competing with LaPorta at 1B, LF, and DH, which could reduce him to a platoon player if he doesn't get off to a good start.
22. Luke Gregerson: The San Diego Padres setup man had the seventh-highest SO-BB total among relievers in 2009. He possesses a wicked slider and could become the team's closer if Heath Bell is traded this summer.
23. Cameron Maybin: My fifth outfielder. While the just-turned 23-year-old center fielder is playing in his fourth MLB season, he has yet to accumulate 200 plate appearances in a single year. He can run like the wind and is a star in the making. Hitting in the two hole between Chris Coghlan and Hanley Ramirez won't hurt his numbers.
24. Mike Aviles: It was slim pickings at this point and I still needed a backup SS, 2B, and C. This selection could come back to haunt me as the Royals optioned him to Triple-A Omaha over the weekend to free up a roster spot for Gil Meche. Coming off Tommy John surgery, Aviles won me over with an outstanding rookie season in 2008 (.325/.354/.480) and a huge spring (.471/.517/.725 with 6 BB and 2 SO). Unfortunately, I don't decide who gets to play in Kansas City.
25. Blake DeWitt: He won the second base job in the spring and should put up respectable numbers two years after hitting .264 with 9 HR in just over 400 plate appearances as a 22-year-old rookie. Good sign: DeWitt has walked five times while striking out only once in his first five games.
26. Miguel Olivo: Did you know that Joe Mauer (28) was the only catcher who slugged more home runs than Olivo (23) last year? Olivo ranked 8th in RBI (65) and 13th in R (51). Hey, he's Bengie Molina with a few more strikeouts.
27. Pedro Alvarez: With a 28-man roster, I have the ability to sit on Alvarez while awaiting his likely recall around Memorial Day.
28. Dan Hudson: The White Sox optioned Hudson to Triple-A Charlotte prior to the season. The 23-year-old righthander, who went a combined 14-5 with a 2.32 ERA at four levels in the minors, was named MLB.com's 2009 Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year. He was brought up to the majors in September and pitched six games, posting a 1-1 record with a 3.38 ERA. Hudson should get another shot this year if Freddy Garcia gets hurt or implodes.
Although I like my team, I'm not looking too swift after the first week. I'm in 13th place, lagging in troubles (doubles plus triples), runs, RBI, and innings pitched. The poor showing in the offensive categories is a function of Jones and Reyes missing a combined seven games while the lack of innings is due to not having any starting pitchers going twice last week. I should be able to make up these innings this week as Nolasco, Dempster, Pavano, and Carmona are each scheduled to start twice.
If nothing else, it should be a fun season.